PlayStation 59.60
Overall 9.60
It has been 9 years since the announcement of a Final Fantasy Remake and we are now about halfway through the story. The first installment was an excellent start, I loved how they fleshed out all the characters and was thrilled with the combat system, but looking back at it now Remake felt like a test for what was to come. Remake was literally the prologue chapter of FFVII, and that game now feels like a prologue for Rebirth , a much bigger and better title. To me the true FF remake begins with this game, this is what my mind envisioned when I was screaming with joy during the 2015 E3 conference. I doubted they could pull off a game so huge, an open world with so many locations and story beats. Splitting the game in pieces has of coursed helped them achieve this monumental task, regardless of the method it works. Rebirth is a dream come true and one of the best JRPGs ever made. 

Rebirth was mostly a linear adventure with almost no room to explore. There was a lack of experimenting with party builds, hardly much materia to create the wild combinations of powers you can do in the original. Rebirth addresses all those issues, taking inspiration from the original. The world map is there in incredible detail, in a way I didn't think they would even attempt to achieve. It is not a full explorable map you can walk around like a Zelda BOTW, it is broken into regions, with each region having its own theme and unique activities. That said while you can’texactly walk the world, the entire chunk of the world this chapter covers is all there, it's not segmented sections. It all exists together in one giant seamless overworld map just like the original. Toward the end when you see the full scope of what Square has achieved my mind was blown, my head racing with the possibilities of what awaits in the final installment.

The open world has some issues which I want to cover first. Most of the activities in this game run through the AI bot Chadley who keeps track of every side quest and odd job available per region. An on screen checklist showing your progress in each region pops center screen every time you complete an assignment. Some of these activities repeat in every region much like a very standard ubisoft map; with activites like activate towers, find life springs, find multiple summon stones. As you unlock towers the icons of where to find these activities fill the map, no real discovery needed. This method of side quest tracking eliminated the sense of magic and discovery the OG FF7 excels at. Even though I was exploring these areas fully I never felt like I am actually discovering anything on my own, I can't think of a secret that exists outside the giant Chadley checklist, everything is logged for you, makes it feel like a countdown to completion than true exploration.

So while I am not a fan of how they handled the way the world was presented I am a huge fan of the content provided in these worlds. Rebirth is side quests the game, and to be even more specific MINI GAMES the game. I have always been a huge fan of variety in my games, I love mini games.Simple ones, weird ones, kind of crappy ones, it doesn't matter. If you try to add activities to your game I am almost always in support of that, especially if they are done this well. I struggle to think of a game with a better selection of mini games and wild side content like this one. Queen's Blood, the fully fleshed out battle card game within this game could be its own game (and might end up happening), this one quest line is so deep it has its own storyline, card boss battles, and different puzzle trials. Over 150 cards to collect and the way the layers of complexity open up as the game rolls along is so impressive, it really is a game within a game. That is just one side quest, how about Chocobo racing with itsmultiple kinds of chocobo to find and race. Different equipment all with their own stats and bonuses. Loads of circuits to try out and a big side story connecting all of it. How about more Fort Condor, how about a gambit driven robot defense game, how about Red rocket league, every single arcade at Golden Saucer, an entire piano rhythm game, I can go on and on and on. These quests don't just appear and go away, some unlock harder modes the longer you play with added complexity, I was addicted to playing these, loved it.

Part of the fun of the open world is discovering what you can do in each region. Every region has a specific Chocobo to find and each has a new skill. It starts simple with a chocobo that can climb certain rock walls, but later on you have chocobos that glide through the air, or bounce off mushrooms, and others I don't want to spoil. Multiple vehicles are also accessible at certain points, if you played the original you know the ones, every vehicle is accounted for. Besides fun side activities in every region, there are optional hunts of rare monsters to track down and a big boss battle per region. These fights are fantastic and usually test some aspect of combat that others do not. Each region is home to a town or two, all fully fleshed out with their own set of side quests and activities to do. Costa Del Sol gets a massive upgrade with full on carnival games to mess with and much more story beats. Even the crazy dolphin jumping two second segment in the original is now a full on dolphin race mini game. They have everything!!!! Every town was a joy to explore, to see reimagined in such a grand way. The Golden Saucer probably being the crown jewel of all of them, oh man the stuff you see and do there, Square totally outdid themselves.

What really sets this game apart from the original and other recent FF games is the combat. Building on the foundation set by Remake, this game addresses many of the complaints from that title mainly how your AI teammates are not building much ATB on their own and lack of aerial attacks for airborne targets. Synergy attacks change the entire flow of combat allowing you incredible control over all three party members even when not directly controlling them. There are two versions of them, one is a real time skill that costs no ATB but builds ATB for the two characters involved. This is now one of the primary ways to build ATB in combat as these skills are incredibly useful, most instantly teleport a character to you allowing you move characters around the battle at will. This adds a huge layer of strategy as different combinations of party members lead to different combos, once hard to build ATB characters like Aerith can piggyback off of Cloud to do a dual super attack which gives a full ATB bar. Tifa's skills allow her to be launched into the air allowing her to attack airborne enemies with ease, something she was useless at in the last game. As you use ATB skills you build up synergy power, once you have enough you can execute an ATB free double attack which does massive damage and has its own secondary effect like say increase limit break levels or give infinite magic for some time. 

Using synergy skills and attacks are key to mastering the combat and yet it really is mostly optional, I think its a credit to the flexibility of this games combat system to where you can still play it a more traditional pausing the game to pick commands. For those that want to go almost full real time there are new control options that let you map up to four abilities per party member and they can be activated no matter who you control. That said I love switching between all party members because they are all so interesting and different to play. The new additions, Red and Cait, play so different than say Barret and Tifa. Yuffie returns from her DLC with more abilities than ever, she is a total powerhouse when used correctly. The returning characters have many new abilities and tweaks to make them more interesting to play as well. Thats all before you get to the materia system which lets you customize any character any way you want. Where Remake felt very limited by the choices of builds and even who you can bring with you to a fight, Rebirth blows those doors open giving you full freedom to create any build you want.

I wondered if they could match the sheer amount of options the OG had in character building and well they basically did it even though its still the halfway point of the story. Yes there are still some more materia saved for the last game but most of the big stat changing ones are here, including materia that focuses on limit break building, some can swap stats of different categories, some allow for quicker ATB building, and many combination materias allow for builds that are immune to all kinds of damage or status effects. Combine that with the multitude of armors and accessories each with their own status abilities and you got a level of customization that nearly any FF game outside the job system can't match. Especially if you go by recent FF games which have been systematically cutting down party sizes and build options. This is a true return to form, to 90's era FF where you can create wild builds. There is so much to find and collect; and now exp means something as every quest you finish and every victorious battle leads to more skills and abilities. This is what i have been asking for in modern FF games and it’s finally here. We can have big parties, we can a gameplay system that allows for freedom to build your team, to pick who you want to play as. This is the best combat system of any Final Fantasy game and I am hard pressed to think of any JRPG with a better one. 

Rebirth excels not just with how much fun it is to fight, it’s also how this game is constantly testing your combat abilities and how you are managing your team. Sure the junk mobs will always be fodder, mindless hacking and slashing for some exp and items but in these games they are easily avoidable on the map. The optional tougher enemies and boss battles is where this combat system shines. Many enemies have specific strategies to pressure and stagger them meaning you might have to do some pre fight prep to get through them. Enter a battle with enemies who are only pressured by a certain magic element and not have that spell available can be an issue, but this game has a remedy for that too as the new exp sphere grid allows you to unlock ability spells for every element meaning even if you dont have that materia you will have a weapon skill with it on your character at all times. There are enemies that constantly buff themselves or debuff your squad. Some are susceptible to sleep, or silence. Annoying bastards will turn you into frogs, have that white cape handy. Some work in pairs and you may need to defeat them in a certain order or even simultaneously. There is so much variety with enemies, over 150+ of them, it’s wild. Once you get into the combat trials they REALLY start to push your combat prowess with trials that might restrict party members or even make you use all of them. It's a combat system that builds and builds the entire game long and even when I finished the story I still felt like I was just beginning to reach the highest levels. 

As mentioned before your progress throughout the game mostly takes place in the open worlds but between sections there is usually a linear dungeon that plays out similarly to most levels in Remake. I won't lie, there are a few duds with these dungeons, some old fashion linear level design with odd time wasting obstacles like moving and throwing boxes around. Still overall most of the dungeons are an improvement from Remake mainly because now many of them are focused around a specific party member which opens up new environmental skills. Barret can shoot distant objects to activate switches. Red can climb up specific walls to reach new places. Yuffie can use a grapple hook and swing around the map. These dungeons are a bit more dynamic, have better variety and sometimes have really fun setpieces like the mine cart mini game. There is still some room for improvement here but it's better than Remake to be sure.

At the end of these dungeons are usually the show stopping boss battles which once again are amazing spectacle and so much fun to fight. Many are still multilayered, requiring strategy changes per phase. There are many small cutscenes during the fight to push the cinematic feel, no one can top Square with presentation, these battles are incredible. It may not reach the level of the recent FF16 as that game spoiled us with its all time great mind blowing boss battles, but it’s better than most games of its kind. One gripe I did have is how spaced out the battles felt mainly because I am a completionist so I spent like 7 hours between dungeons just doing side quests. I know this is ultimately my fault because there is so much optional stuff to do and you the player are your own director of content you can really mess up the balance of story momentum. I am not sure if there is a way to fix that, I do think the way the game was structured, pretty much asking the player to complete a whole area before moving on, exacerbated the feeling for me to focus on side quests before moving on. A more organic free form world might allow for better balance.

So how is the story, well when its following the original games beats its incredible. Just like Remake it fleshes out so many of these characters and their personalities. The world around them has so much more detail, way more NPCs that feel like full characters.  The locations and people living in them come alive in a way the original couldn't even dream of. Even characters that were not that interesting like say Cait Sith have a much more lively personality, they nail every character. Well I have one gripe that involves Red and voice acting, don't want to spoil it but you know what it is if you played the game, I felt they went a little too far there, kind of distracting but I got used to it. Even the two party members that you can't play as yet, Cid and Vincent, have moments to shine. Vincent already has a bunch of killer lines and he is in the game the least of all major characters. Oh Yuffie is a star now, an optional simple character in the original is now a scene stealing ball of energy. I love these characters, I love this world, when this game is doing the original retelling it does it extremely well. 

BUT then there are the new story elements…     this is not a true remake, it’s more of a pseudo sequel that’s a retelling of the original with new events happening involving multiverse and time travel shenanigans which get extremely convoluted quick. I actually like the idea they are going for with this project, a Sephiroth from the future is trying to mess with time/fate so he can find a way to win but a transcendent version of Aerith is doing her best to stop him. The last game ended with our party destroying the arbiters of fate thus unleashing endless new possibilities. The majority of this game never addresses that, there are some new segments with Zach that play between chapters, one big moment in the middle and the end , that’s pretty much the only time the new elements come to play, most of the games story is told as it was before. Sadly the new story elements come at the expense of extremely emotional scenes in the original, mainly the big one.

The final few hours of this game in terms of story is a mess (the boss fights are amazing). What should have been the most important emotional moment of the game becomes a confusing mess of purposefully vague story beats that left me wondering what the hell is happening rather than feel the events of the moment. It’s a damn shame that a remake that has enhanced so many story beats fails at the most important one. I feel bad for anyone who didn’t play the original, the entire sequence won’t even make sense. Trying to keep an air of mystery for the next game is one thing, but purposefully having the events so confusing so there are no real answers as to what happened, leading to endless theories online, is being confusing for confusing sake. Maybe it all comes together in epic fashion in the last game, still doesn’t excuse that right now I am robbed of the emotion I should feel.

Rebirth uses the same engine as Remake, UE4, but with this game being open world the performance is actually worse. I had to play on quality because performance mode was so blurry and still dips at times. Even with those concessions the game world is beautiful, good art direction can overcome graphical limitations and this game has some glorious vistas. To see these classic locations come to life with such great detail, expanded even, I am overjoyed with the look of almost all the locations, enemies and characters. I really do hope they move onto unreal engine 5 for the next but there is almost no chance that happens.

I need to devote a paragraph to the music because it deserves all the praise possible. I want to shower the composers with awards, this is one of the best soundtracks of any game. Every classic track is redone, sounding better than ever with more layers to the songs. New tracks mix and match sounds of different FF7 tracks, or are original bangers. Some music from other FF games even come into play during some wild side quests. Why the soundtrack is so impactful is because they use it to enhance every single moment. Who knew you could continuously remix the FF7 battle theme so that it feels exciting and fresh every time it plays.  On the voice acting front everyone does a fabulous job bring live and new personality to these characters. Special praise to Cait Sith’s voice actor for much needed personality enhancement.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is the game I envisioned when this project was first announced. It has exceeded my expectations as I never thought new age square had it in them to go full 90s era JRPG. All the layers of strategy is there, the massive party all given their due and play so uniquely to one another. A full world map to explore and even hints at what’s to come with full flight over the entire overworld. A game that embraces the quirky mini games and oddities of the original by not just matching it, blowing it away with content. It might have some story issues and it’s still only a piece of the overall story so you never get that sense of a complete adventure like the original. In  terms of game design though this is top tier Square. I hope this game serves as the template for future Final Fantasy titles as it is one of the greatest ever made.  
Posted by Dvader Fri, 05 Apr 2024 07:05:36
Fri, 05 Apr 2024 10:50:46
Top tier review Vader. I bought rebirth last week and will definitely get to it. Put it in and it looked great and brought back memories of when I played FF7.  The battles (I only put it in to install and check if it was ready) seemed action over turn based which was a concern (perhaps due to the difficulty level I chose).

I am not sure I'd welcome a change to open world, I prefer my RPG's (and all games really) to be linear.
Log in or Register for free to comment
Recently Spotted:
Login @ The VG Press
Remember me?